City must learn lessons from “sheer squalor” of student rubbish

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The scene at Ulcombe Gardens on the Hales Place Estate yesterday

Yesterday afternoon St Stephen’s councillor Terry Westgate and I toured part of the area of our residents’ association in to check on the refuse bins at the student houses, now that the academic year has ended.

Today is the bin collection day and we wanted to make sure that the bins were properly sorted so that they would be emptied. We don’t want to be left with a neighbourhood full of uncollected rubbish over the summer.

For the most part it was an experience of sheer squalor.

The worst was the rotting food waste – sometimes scattered on the ground where bags had been ripped open, sometimes in the recycling bin or the garden waste bin, which would mean that those bins would then not be emptied.

Quite apart from the food waste, in many cases unsorted rubbish had been chucked indiscriminately into the recycling bin or the garden waste bin.

Rubbish scattered on the ground outside a student property

There were very few student houses where it had been properly sorted, and we spent the best part of three hours transferring refuse into the right bins so that they would be emptied.

Even so, there were too many cases where, in the recycling bins, paper and cardboard had not been separated from cans and bottles.

We didn’t have time to deal with that, and we just have to hope that the Serco workers will stretch the rules. I pity them having to deal with it all.

I don’t want to moan about students in general. Some make an effort to do the right thing. But there are some lessons to be learned.

1. A leaflet from Canterbury City Council was delivered to student houses telling them that there would be a ‘Bin Amnesty’, but it didn’t explain what this actually meant. Most of the leaflet was devoted to explaining the scheme for recycling usable household items, but the two operations were not clearly distinguished. The leaflet from the universities was only slightly more informative. Students can’t be expected to do the right thing if they’re not properly informed.

2. Landlords have to take their responsibilities seriously. Students can’t be expected to time their departure so that it coincides with bin collection day. We met one conscientious landlord today going round all his properties and checking on the bins. If they all did that, there would be few problems.

3. The whole problem has to be addressed at an earlier stage. Many students go the whole year without ever sorting their refuse properly and putting it out on the right day, so it’s no surprise that they’re still getting it wrong at the end of the year. Universities and landlords have to make a concerted effort, at the beginning of the academic year, to educate their students and tenants about how to deal with their refuse, when to put out the bins, the importance of recycling, and how to separate the different categories of waste and recycling. In the end, too, the education has to be backed up with enforcement. And, yes, that means fines if necessary.

7 COMMENTS

  1. The GREEN Team Canterbury believes that students should have rubbish and recycling taught at induction, on a compulsory basis with a test. If they pass they could receive accreditation towards their course. Also, they could be introduced to other students and non student residents in their area with the option of joining a mentoring scheme where they could share any skills they have, such as basketball, football, music gardening, with others in their community including youth.

    There is also the issue of an enormous amount of perfectly usable items being wasted into landfill at student relocation. At a time when our planet and its life is facing such challenges to existence this is criminal. Over the past four years we have worked very hard to address this in Canterbury, raising awareness, preventing this waste as much as possible. Yet prevention is better than cure and it is a lot easier to deal with before it gets thrown away .

    Following our efforts, the Council and universities have started an official student goods recycling scheme. This is their first year of operation and we wish them well. Hopefully they will build on their efforts and include more partnerships as those schemes we have seen which do so are much more successful. They also need to improve their publicity campaign as many students we spoke with were not aware of the scheme.

    All the very best,
    Diane & Mark, co-founders
    The GREEN Team Canterbury

  2. All i ever hear is bloody lessons? Everyone knows what they should do. Tenants rent from landlords,they MUST recycle…if not landlord keeps deposit. When moving out or end of terms landlord needs to check bins on all owned properties…if he gets lumbered..he keeps deposit and sorts it himself. Thats it. Anything else…is UNACCEPTABLE..and Council fines landlord.

    • That’s a good idea, Chris.

      The GREEN Team Canterbury believes that students should have rubbish and recycling taught at induction, on a compulsory basis with a test. If they pass they could receive accreditation towards their course. Also, they could be introduced to other students and non student residents in their area with the option of joining a mentoring scheme where they could share any skills they have, such as basketball, football, music gardening, with others in their community including youth.

      There is also the issue of an enormous amount of perfectly usable items being wasted into landfill at student relocation. At a time when our planet and its life is facing such challenges to existence this is criminal. Over the past four years we have worked very hard to address this in Canterbury, raising awareness, preventing this waste as much as possible. Yet prevention is better than cure and it is a lot easier to deal with before it gets thrown away .

      Following our efforts, the Council and universities have started an official student goods recycling scheme. This is their first year of operation and we wish them well. Hopefully they will build on their efforts and include more partnerships as those schemes we have seen which do so are much more successful. They also need to improve their publicity campaign as many students we spoke with were not aware of the scheme.

      All the very best,
      Diane & Mark, co-founders
      The GREEN Team Canterbury
      https://www.facebook.com/thegreenteamcanterbury
      thegreenteamcanterbury@zoho.com

  3. The GREEN Team Canterbury believes that students should have rubbish and recycling taught at induction, on a compulsory basis with a test. If they pass they could receive accreditation towards their course. Also, they could be introduced to other students and non student residents in their area with the option of joining a mentoring scheme where they could share any skills they have, such as basketball, football, music gardening, with others in their community including youth.

    There is also the issue of an enormous amount of perfectly usable items being wasted into landfill at student relocation. At a time when our planet and its life is facing such challenges to existence this is criminal. Over the past four years we have worked very hard to address this in Canterbury, raising awareness, preventing this waste as much as possible. Yet prevention is better than cure and it is a lot easier to deal with before it gets thrown away .

    Following our efforts, the Council and universities have started an official student goods recycling scheme. This is their first year of operation and we wish them well. Hopefully they will build on their efforts and include more partnerships as those schemes we have seen which do so are much more successful. They also need to improve their publicity campaign as many students we spoke with were not aware of the scheme.

    All the very best,

    Diane & Mark, co-founders

    The GREEN Team Canterbury

  4. As an accredited letting agent working on behalf of Landlords we have to use contractors with a trade waste license pick the mess left by tenants. When they move into a property they are given how to use the bin guides, posters are put into the property telling them what to put into each bin, details of bin collection dates, information from the council and student union but the students don’t pay council tax and can only be charged any deduction once they have left the property. A major issue is that Serco do not pick up the rubbish, even when there is an amnesty. This should have been running from 11th June – 6th July according to Canterbury City Council. So all rubbish to put out during those dates should have been collected by Serco regardless of cross contamination.

    When the tenancy is coming to an end the students are sent information from the Council, university and the letting agent telling them when the last bin collection date is and once again, what to put into each bin. But once the rubbish is outside of the property A Landlord cannot prove that it belongs to the tenants or which property “dumped it”.

    The universities advise the tenants to dispute all charges they do not agree with, rightly so. So the students dispute the costs of remove all rubbish and nearly always win because it is up to the Landlord to prove it is their rubbish. Last year it costs us thousands to clear up after them as we have to send the rubbish as trade waste. If we just bag it back up it gets split again or the neighbors complain it wasn’t put out on bin day or, the most common of all, the bins are stolen long before the next student tenants move in.

    I agree that Landlords have a responsibility to clear up the mess but please ask yourself why are Serco not emptying the bins during the amnesty period? The council tell us they will collect any rubbish from any bin on any collection day during this period. The true fact that outsourcing refuse collection to Serco was a big mistake from the start.

  5. The info isn’t at all clear though. The youth that’s been created from our system won’t engage with it for the amount of time it takes to find that no info can be found for enn of term relocation. What there is…well, it’s awful and totally out of touch. With broken links. Some can’t get their stuff into town and the charity bins dotted about the city are small and overflow. They aren’t emptied often enough. The answer is in understanding the underlying issues and dealing with them. Instead of parroting the same stuff that not even non students can engage with. I’ve just spent ages searching as if I was a student for good info. It’s impossible. I even clicked on a link and got page not found. You try it.
    Diane

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